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Whitworth alumna, founder of Blood:Water Mission to give keynote speech at May 13 commencement ceremony

April 19, 2012
Whitworth President Beck A. Taylor to speak at graduate ceremony May 12

Jena Lee Nardella,'04, who co-founded Blood:Water Mission with the Grammy Award-winning band Jars of Clay, will address graduates at Whitworth University's 122nd undergraduate commencement ceremony May 13. Whitworth President Beck A. Taylor will be the speaker at the graduate commencement ceremony May 12.

Nardella will give her address, "Slowly by Slowly," during the undergraduate ceremony, which will take place at 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 13, at the Spokane Arena. Nearly 590 Whitworth undergraduates will receive their degrees.

Taylor will speak at the university's graduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 12, at 10 a.m. in Whitworth's Cowles Auditorium. He will deliver his address, "Keeping it All in Perspective," to an audience including more than 100 graduates receiving master's degrees in education, teaching, counseling, business administration, international management, and theology.

Forrest E. Baird, professor and chair of philosophy at Whitworth, will offer the homily, "Be Realistic," for the baccalaureate service on Sunday at 10 a.m. in the Whitworth Fieldhouse. Baird has written or edited 10 books, and has been named Most Influential Professor five times by previous graduating classes.

Whitworth Commencement Weekend events begin Friday, May 11, and will include a senior communion and commissioning service, a senior reflections slideshow and showcase of senior class talent, an art exhibit, a music recital, and an English department reading featuring graduates' capstone achievements. For complete Commencement Weekend details, visit

During the undergraduate commencement ceremony, three students will receive President's Cup awards for maintaining a 4.0 grade point average throughout their undergraduate education. Recipients are Jacqueline DeJong, Sarah Flynn, and Aaron Korthuis. The Whitworth Servant Leadership Award, which honors a graduating senior who has exhibited an extraordinary commitment to serving the campus and the larger community, also will be given during the ceremony.

Nardella, who earned a bachelor's degree in political science and met Jars of Clay when they performed on campus, co-founded Blood:Water Mission with the band after graduating from Whitworth at the age of 22. She has been featured in Christianity TodaySojourners Magazine, Relevant Magazine, and the documentary film Sons of Lwala. Her collaborative writing includes "Hope in the Dark" (Relevant Books, 2006), "Zealous Love" (Zondervan, 2009), and "The Revolution: A Field Manual for Changing Your World" (Relevant Books, 2006). Nardella serves on the board for the Center for Nonprofit Management and the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health. She and her husband live in Nashville, Tenn., and travel often to Africa.

Since its founding in 2005, Blood:Water Mission has raised millions of dollars through the creative efforts of tens of thousands of individuals seeking to make a difference. To date, Blood:Water Mission has partnered with more than 1,000 communities in Africa, providing life-saving water and health care for more than 600,000 people in 13 countries. Along the way, its 1,000 Wells Project has expanded to include a variety of clean water solutions, sanitation and hygiene training, and capacity building of its local grassroots partners to improve their ability to develop sustainable programs. Blood:Water Mission has also funded health clinics, community health workers, and support groups, which help in the prevention, treatment, care and support of communities affected by AIDS.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Mark Baker, associate registrar, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4332 or

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or